The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra made a welcome return to Melbourne with its featured soloist Dimitry Sinkovsky, a man with more than one musical talent. The Russian is best known for his violin playing, and his showmanship, a good match with the Vivaldi-dominated program, including encores.
The program (with last-minute changes) comprised
Vivaldi Concerto in C Major RV177
Corelli Concerto Op 6 No. 11 in B flat major
Vivaldi Concerto in D minor RV246
Handel Aria Cara sposa, amante cara from Rinaldo
Vivaldi Cello Concerto in A minor RV421
Vivaldi Concerto in D minor RV242 Op 8 No 7 Per Pisendel
The ABO director, Paul Dyer, was at the harpsichord for the
Vivaldi Concerto in C Major RV177, although the instrument was placed to the centre of the stage facing the audience, giving the soloist prominence. A confident figure with his distinctive ponytail, Sinkovsky instantly commanded attention and was to charm the audience with the resonance of his 350-year-old violin. The ABO was given only a few bars to establish its bright, emphatic presence before the first solo. Sinkovsy’s solo featured elaborate ornamentation, with his energetic performance seeming to galvanise the whole orchestra.
The second movement, Largo, was all about the solo violin and its beautiful melody, the Brandenburgs providing a measured and seemingly effortless accompaniment. The Allegro featured elements of Vivaldi that everyone loves, with its strong rhythm inspiring some toe-tapping in the audience. In contrast were lovely plangent baroque intervals after which Dyer’s keyboard was heard momentarily. Sinkovsky then treated the audience to an impressive display of bowing in what appeared to be a coda with deft spiccato. (This bowing technique in which the bow bounces lightly upon the string was employed to great effect by the soloist throughout the night). Next, an acceleration in tempo and some emphatic chords from the ABO brought the concerto to a close. The concert had started very well.
The Corelli concerto different from Vivaldi’s more conventional three-movement structure saw Sinkovsky momentarily sharing the spotlight with some ABO musicians in a series of dances. This variety allowed Sinkovsky to show aspects of his playing from the solemn sweet allemande to a stately sarabande and, finally, a lively gigue. The ABO was notable for its support of the soloist but also its shared feeling for dynamics and tempo, the sudden increase in speed towards the end being a challenge well met. As so often in Brandenburg concerts, the theorbo was a welcome part of the orchestration lending a gentle sway to several movements such as the sarabande.
The third and final concerto before interval, Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor RV246 had the ABO producing a strong attack before the soloist’s extended and virtuosic display. The Largo featured the violins, then tutti in unison before a solo of great sweetness, this time with guitar accompaniment, which had a similar effect to the theorbo in adding a lilt to the music. The gentleness of the ending only served to accentuate the orchestra’s attack in the final movement. That ended with a great flourish and elicited a roar of approval from the audience.
Paul Dyer had earlier announced that Sinkovsky had chosen to sing Handel’s lament Cara sposa, amante cara because of his concern about the victims of Flight MH17 shot down over the Ukraine. As Dyer conducted from the harpsichord Sinkovsky (now with his hair loose on his shoulders) abandoned the violin to display his vocal talent, with a countertenor voice that was pure and confident from the first high-pitched note. Phrasing and dynamics were well controlled for maximum effect, Dyer at times appearing to hold back the orchestra to prevent it overpowering the voice. Many in the orchestra and audience were visibly moved by this performance, consistently sorrowful to the last, long held note.
With Sinkovsky given a rest (and possibly time to transition from singer to string-player!) the orchestra’s own Jamie Hey was soloist in Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A minor RV42. Hey’s association with the ABO was invaluable in carrying off entries that could otherwise be tricky. If the first movement was a well-executed ensemble piece, the second was a duet for two cellos, or perhaps a trio, as the theorbo’s lilt was again in play. The “duet” carried into the final movement, which had drama in its contrasting tempos, more spiccato and again, a brisk dance-like ending.
The final piece, the Vivaldi Concerto in D minor RV242 Op 8 No 7 Per Pisendel gave Sinkovsky an early, impressive partnership with harpsichord and bass that seemed to inspire all players to match it. The quality of sound – and audience appreciation of it – carried through a string of encores, notably a particularly wintry rendition of a movement from the concerto, Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. One of the most remarkable achievements of the night’s performance by Dimitry Sinkovsky and the ABO was to restore pleasure in this often-played work – and Vivaldi more generally. For which, much thanks.
Photo: Steven Godbee Publicity & Photography